This week, I’m taking a leaf out of the book of one of my favorite podcasts, Wham Bam Pow. They have this occasional segment called “Movies That Made Me,” where they have a guest come on and talk about a movie that influenced them or otherwise had some affect on them at some point in their life. I don’t know that I could do that with any movies or even TV shows, but I can definitely do that with music.
The following is a list of the top 5 albums that influenced or otherwise had some effect on me at some point in my life. They aren’t necessarily my top 5 favorite albums (though some of them are). Rather than present them in the order of least to most influential (or the other way around), I’m presenting them in the order that I discovered them (not the order they were released). This is the music that made me.
1) Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
This album came out when I was 9, though I don’t think I started listening to it until I was around 10 or 11. It was the first album I remember listening to over and over again that wasn’t a Disney soundtrack, or otherwise an album meant for kids. It’s funny looking back on it because this album is all about being an adult. Re-listening to it in my 20’s, I feel such a connection to a lot of its themes. I don’t know what drew me to it as a kid. It might have been her unique voice. I certainly hadn’t heard anything like it before. It was harsh but powerful. It was so the opposite of my Disney soundtracks. The production on this album is flawless–I think somehow I recognized that even as a kid. It was (and still is) such a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.
2) Nelly Furtado, Whoa, Nelly!
I was really beginning to discover my musical independence in high school and, like most kids in my generation, found a lot of my music at that time on MTV. It’s where I first heard Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird,” and it’s had a special place in my heart ever since. I related to a lot of that album when I was in high school. It was something about the persistent theme of a wandering soul, of someone who was still figuring out who they were and where they belonged. It helped that she, too, had a unique and intriguing voice. I loved the way it never seemed content to stay still or predictable, making it consistent with the themes of the album. It was very different from what was dominant in pop music at the time, which, according to this Slant magazine review, was “‘pop princesses’ and rap-metal bands.” (That is totally what pop music was at that time. They’re not even slightly exaggerating.)
3) Gorillaz, Gorillaz
The first time I saw and heard “Clint Eastwood,” it blew my mind. It was unlike ANYTHING I’d seen on MTV at that time. I didn’t even know something like that could exist. I’d never even contemplated it. It wasn’t even the pinnacle of what they would accomplish, but my brain and ears were hooked. When I got the album, I was delighted at how this music was (again) so different from anything else I’d heard. It really set the bar for what music could be for me at that time. I also loved the shroud of secrecy that the band kept around them. It was like believing in Santa Claus all over again. I wanted to know so much more about them, but the not knowing was a thrill too. I still remember that sense of wonder when I re-watch Clint Eastwood, even though I now know the physical faces behind the cartoon facades.
4) Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030
Well, what can I say about this album that I haven’t said before? Deltron 3030 changed everything I thought I knew about rap, and even what I thought I knew about music. It really raised the bar for me.There was no going back after hearing the track “3030.” It’s no wonder, considering there was a lot of creative exchanging of musical ideas going on between Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Damon Albarn at that time, and you can totally hear it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it had the biggest influence on me since I’d first heard/seen “Clint Eastwood.” It’s just a surprise how long it took me to discover it! (It was around the end of 2010, I think.)
5) iamamiwhoami, kin
So I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love iamamiwhoami. But I don’t think I’ve given a definite reason. kin is that reason. I’d already heard of them by the time they’d started the slow-release of this project/album. And I’d been intrigued before, but bounty didn’t have the same sense of continuity that kin did. kin was not as busy as bounty. It seemed to have a clearer sense of direction, even if it wasn’t clear to the viewer/listener what that was. It was better than following a TV drama from week-to-week (kin was released biweekly). I eagerly awaited every single release up to the very end, when I snatched up the CD/DVD release and watched it in its entirety. It was only after a few watches that it finally became clear to me what it was about. I won’t say because I think it means something different to everyone, and everyone is meant to discover what that is on their own. But it’s so deeply personal to me. I feel it in my bones every time.
Björk, Vespertine – This album had a pretty good influence on me when I was in college (a lot of Björk’s work did) but it falls just shy of the top 5 most influential list. Sorry, B!
Madonna, Ray of Light – I never listened to a lot of Madonna growing up, but I remember getting interested in her around this time. This was when she was going through her Kabbalah thing. It made for a magical album.
Moby, Play – I played the hell out of this album in high school. Moby’s music was such a curiosity to me, mainly because it seemed to defy genre. It took my mind to totally new places.
Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions – Another album I played the hell out of in high school. It was so soulful, and I’d never really experienced anything like that. It reminded me of my experiences with Alanis Morissette, but softer.